I think if I hear or read about one more lawmaker declaring that a bill clearly motivated by partisan politics is “not about politics,” I will scream:
The Terrorist Expatriation Act, co-sponsored by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, would allow the State Department to revoke the citizenship of people who provide support to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or who attack the United States or its allies.
… Mr. Brown, who endorsed aggressive tactics against terrorism suspects in his campaign for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s seat, said the bill was not about politics.
“It reflects the changing nature of war and recent events,” Mr. Brown said Thursday. “War has moved into a new dimension. Individuals who pick up arms — this is what I believe — have effectively denounced their citizenship, and this legislation simply memorializes that effort. So somebody who wants to burn their passport, well, let’s help them along.”
Well, thank you for sharing your “beliefs” with us, Sen. Brown, but they are utterly irrelevant, and also, who cares? There’s this document called the U.S. Constitution, you see, and that document is what’s relevant, not your “beliefs.”
Really, there are so many things wrong with this bill it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with this: It’s unconstitutional:
[The Supreme Court ruled in the 1967 case, Afroyim v. Rusk, that] it is unconstitutional for Congress to strip the citizenship of any American who did not voluntarily renounce citizenship, even if that citizen proved himself loyal to a foreign country. … As the Afroyim Court put it (emphasis added):
[The Fourteenth Amendment] provides its own constitutional rule in language calculated completely to control the status of citizenship: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States . . . .” There is no indication in these words of a fleeting citizenship, good at the moment it is acquired but subject to destruction by the Government at any time. Rather the Amendment can most reasonably be read as defining a citizenship which a citizen keeps unless he voluntarily relinquishes it. Once acquired, this Fourteenth Amendment citizenship was not to be shifted, canceled, or diluted at the will of the Federal Government, the States, or any other governmental unit.
The Court, in 1980, made clear what a person must do in order to be found to have “voluntarily renounced” his citizenship.
It’s silly and uninformed:
What is amazing about Lieberman’ fascist proposal is that it will not work even on Lieberman’s terms. Presumably, to strip a “suspected terrorist” of his citizenship, you’ll have to prove in a court of law that the suspected terrorist is actually a, you know, terrorist. And in proving it, you’ll have to respect the Constitution, which sort of defeats the purpose of Lieberman’s proposal. Not only is Lieberman a despicable human being, he is really as dumb as a rock. He and McCain are truly two of the stupidest people in Washington, which is saying a lot.
Miranda rights have nothing to do with citizenship:
The substance of the proposal has yet to be unveiled, though it does have supporters in the House and Senate. But already a host of legal officials are raising red flags. For starters, the legislation would not, on its surface, solve the most immediate crisis for which it is seemingly designed. Lieberman is lamenting the fact that the Obama administration read the Miranda rights to Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing. But even if Shahzad were deprived of his citizenship, his Miranda rights would still be read to him, so long as he was held in a criminal setting.
“Miranda applies if somebody’s going to be charged with a crime, and that applies to somebody whether they’re a citizen or not,” said Anil Kalhan, a law professor at Drexel University.
Indeed, what Lieberman is attempting to do is to pave the way for terrorists with American citizenship to be thrown into military tribunals once they are captured. And it would give the State Department the power to make that determination.
Chris Hayes of The Nation pointed out on The Rachel Maddow Show a few nights ago that the Miranda decision has always been unpopular on the right:
… Miranda rights don’t depend on American citizenship. If you’re arrested in America, you’re told about your right to remain silent and seek an attorney because you’re in America.On the show Tuesday, Nation editor Chris Hayes argued that many conservatives don’t like Miranda rights in the first place. Hayes pointed out what amounts to circular reason. “This argument, the zombie argument, that Miranda only applies to citizens, refuses to die,” he said. “And now, we’re seeing that they didn’t even take that seriously to begin with because now that that comes up here, they want to get rid of the citizenship.”
You cannot jettison the Constitution because it’s inconvenient:
MI [Michael Isikoff]: … Look, there probably will be a discussion of this. But all I’m saying is we are still a country of laws. You can’t just make it up as you go along.
HH [Hugh Hewitt]: But that’s cliché.
MI: And you know, maybe…
HH: That’s just cliché. We’re a country of laws. I know that. I teach it.
Yes, a cliché authored by John Adams. Funny how the conservative reverence for the country’s founding fathers so often stops just short of defending the principles these men stood for.
To comment on this post, go here.